Should I Bug Out or Survive in Place?- Part 3, by Jonathan Hollerman

“I can’t afford a survival retreat and I have nowhere to go!”

I hope the information I’ve imparted so far—scrutinizing the source of your prepper information and determining the worst-case scenario to prepare for—has the wheels turning inside your head. Maybe you’re not totally convinced that you should abandon your current plans to survive in place yet, but you admit there’s at least an inkling of truth to what I’m saying. Your biggest roadblock may be financial, and that may seem insurmountable. Most of us aren’t millionaire businessmen who can afford a fully-stocked survival retreat to bug out to. I get that! Hopefully, I can convince you that there are alternative options for you and your family.

For those of you who can afford it, having a rural, well-stocked, and professionally designed survival retreat that no one knows about is an absolute no-brainer in surviving a total collapse scenario. Even if you live in an upscale gated community with a security guard, it’s not going to matter. Once the grocery stores are looted, I can assure you that the inner-city population is coming to your rich neighborhood next. Bubba, the rent-a-cop at the front gatehouse is not going to stop them. Rich people are hoarding all the food, right? The main stream media and the progressive left have been promoting class warfare for quite some time. You need to understand that there is a rapidly growing segment of the population that hates rich people. Most media outlets have people believing that the rich are to blame for the poor’s circumstances. For now, these mini-Marxists may just talk tough on their social media posts; however, when they start going hungry, they are going to get angry. At first their anger will be directed towards the government, whom they believed would always take care of them, but they will also act out on their resentment for the rich. My belief is that the hungry and starving will go after the rich neighborhoods first, before looting suburbia.

So, what if you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth? How could you possibly afford to have a bug out location? The truth is that there are hundreds of thousands of effective bug out locations in existence; you just need to locate one of them. The key to bugging out on a budget is having a purposeful Plan of Action in place before the SHTF. Please be aware that the various plans of actions I will propose all come with risks, some more so than others. At the same time, those risks are minor compared to the risk of trying to survive in the city.

My first recommendation would be to join an existing prepping group that already has a full survival retreat. In truth, this is very hard to do. Most people who have survival retreats don’t discuss them in public. If they are discussing it around the water cooler at work, I would immediately rule out their group because their OPSEC is already blown. You can search for existing groups on certain prepper forums, but you need to be careful. While every client I have worked with has been completely sane, there are also a whole lot of crazies out there. Just watch a few episodes of Doomsday Preppers, if you want examples.

I cannot stress enough the precautions you need to take when looking to join a group. You need to thoroughly vet the group you are joining and make sure they are a good fit for you and your family. You need to make sure they have an effective retreat location and know what they are doing. For every good survival retreat group, there are five that don’t know what they are doing. Most importantly, make sure they have at least a year’s worth of long-term food for every one of their members. This is a big issue I see when doing my survival retreat analysis for existing groups. More than half of the retreats only have a fraction of the long-term food they are going to need to make it through the first winter. Most groups rely on each family unit to supply their own food, but they don’t enforce it or make sure the food is purchased and stored on site. While they may have a good location and plenty of skills, that won’t be enough to save them when their food runs out long before harvest time.

For you to join an existing retreat group, you will need to have some sort of skill to bring to the table. Being an emergency room surgeon will likely be a shoe-in for most groups (but most trauma surgeons can afford their own retreat). Experience in electrical engineering, prior-combat military, mechanical engineering, gardening, or some other essential skill will be needed to join one of these groups. Even if you have a vital skill they are lacking, you’ll likely need to bring your own food with you, unless there is a wealthy benefactor running the group. You can’t expect them to feed your family just because you know how to fix cars. I put joining an existing retreat group first because if it works out for you, it is your best option. In truth, unless you know someone already who has a retreat, you are probably going to strike out heading in this direction.

My second recommendation is to make survival plans with someone you know who already lives in a remote location. However, just because Uncle Charlie lives on a farm, that doesn’t mean you should bug out there. It still needs to be in a good location. If it’s only twenty miles outside of the big city, that’s only going to buy you a little time before the city masses flee and head your way. If the farmhouse only sits a few hundred feet off a major two lane road through the country, it’s not a good option.

This is a common fall back plan for a lot of suburban preppers, but make sure you do some research on what makes an effective retreat location first. Your chances of survival are much higher if you can avoid any interaction with the masses. You need to be far from any big cities and at least ten miles from any small towns. It’s best if the location is two or three turns off any secondary roads, preferably on a dead-end road. It’s especially important that the house is far back from and not visible from the road with the least number of neighbors as possible in view. These are just a couple of points to consider, but by no means are they the only ones. Again, do some research on what makes an effective bug out location. If Uncle Charlie’s farm doesn’t fit in well with the requirements of a standard survival retreat location, you need to go a different direction, which I will discuss shortly.

Let’s assume that Uncle Charlie’s farm does meet the requirements of an effective bug out location. What then? First, you need to have a discussion with Uncle Charlie. Then, you need to start storing your long-term food and other survival supplies there and not at your suburban home. You don’t know for sure if you will be able to haul all your needed supplies there if the highways get blocked by people evacuating and breaking down or running out of gas. Also in the aftermath of an EMP, you may not have a running vehicle. Are you going to leave all that stuff behind, and will that decision make you second guess your bug out strategy and convince you to foolishly stay in town with your supplies? Either way, it’s a really terrible situation and decision to have to make. The next difficult decision for those of you with a little more capital to invest in your preparations, is whether to install backup power, secondary water sources, greenhouses, et cetera that you would normally be putting into your suburban home. I realize it’s weird and maybe a little un-nerving to be putting some serious money into property you don’t even own. I get it. But I still recommend you do it. Also, hopefully Uncle Charlie is fully on board and willing to store up his own food and supplies. If he’s not, you need to do it for him. You need to be sure there is long-term food storage for everyone who is going to be showing up there. Otherwise your family’s one year food storage is going to be gone fairly quickly. To minimize this, be sure Uncle Charlie understands the importance of secrecy and isn’t discussing what you are planning with anyone else.

What if your Uncle Charlie has a good location but thinks the idea of prepping is “crazy talk”? That’s fine, just let it go at that and don’t discuss it any further with him. Rent a storage unit close to where he lives and cache all your stuff there. Just make sure it is a temperature-controlled storage building, if you are keeping your long-term food there. One of the worst mistakes you can make with long-term food is storing it in a location with extreme temperature changes. When the SHTF, just show up at Uncle Charlie’s with all your food and supplies. He will then be grateful you were so “crazy” and understand why you were preparing for hard times.

Okay. So you don’t know anyone planning a survival retreat and you don’t have an Uncle Charlie (or his farm is in a bad location), then here is my third recommendation to find a bug out location. Download Google Earth and teach yourself how to use it. After that, use all the “effective survival retreat location principles” you’ve learned, and start looking for the absolute best area near you for a survival retreat. Pretend you are a millionaire and getting ready to purchase property for a survival retreat. Once you find a couple areas that would work, look on Craigslist and perform a general Google search for remote rental cabins in that area. I do not mean large RV parks or campgrounds that offer cabins. I mean singular cabin rentals, preferably ones that are commercially-owned and not rented out when the owners aren’t using it. Make it a priority to spend a couple weekends this summer getting out of the city with your family and spend a night or two at a handful of these locations. See how they match up in person to your survival retreat considerations. Is it well off the beaten path? Is there an area that could be turned into a garden? Does it have off-grid power? Is there a wood stove to heat the place throughout the winter?

Once you have found a good location, do the same thing I mentioned when dealing with a skeptical Uncle Charlie. Rent a temperature-controlled storage unit nearby and cache your stuff there. Now, it’s important that you understand my meaning behind doing this. I am saying when the SHTF that you should go to that cabin and move in, but I am not implying that you steal it from the owners. If they show up there, you will need to have a discussion with them on how it would be beneficial for you to work together with them. You will need to be able to effectively explain the dire circumstances that the country is facing. Explain the benefits of the extra hands to put in the garden and how you already have survival seed. Explain how it will be easier to keep a twenty-four-hour watch over the property with extra people and how you’ve got plenty of guns and professional training to help protect them. A huge recommendation here is to have extra long-term food stored for them as well. If you do all these things, they would have to be idiots not to see the benefits of working together. Again, this all assumes the owners show up in the first place. If you are considering multiple locations, going to a corporate-owned rental cabin will be better than some summer cottage that a wealthy person rents when they aren’t using it.

So, you’ve done an exhaustive search for cabins and maybe even spent a couple weekends with the family at a few of them with no luck. They just don’t fit your needs. My fourth recommendation is to get back on Google Earth and start searching those same rural areas you highlighted as good bug out locations from where you live. Start looking for small farms that are at the end of a dirt road. Farms that sit well off the road and maybe have state game lands or other large farms surrounding them. Find a good ten different locations and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. Write their addresses down as well as highlight their exact locations on a paper map. Take a Sunday drive sometime and drive past these locations. Is the farm clean and well-kept or are they slobs? Is it as good of a location as you thought or is there an OPSEC issue that you didn’t notice on the satellite or terrain view? Don’t forget to keep an eye out while driving around for other locations that might work better. Keep good notes of everything you’ve seen and considered. Find a storage rental in a centralized location and stash your supplies there, like we discussed previously.

When the SHTF, start at the best location at the top of your list. Knock on the door and start a friendly conversation with the owners. Wrap your head around the situation and have a strategy for the conversation going in. Don’t just wing it; have it written down with bullet points. Don’t give away your intentions at first; just try to get a feel for the person. Your line of questioning should give you answers to the following questions:

  • Are they friendly?
  • How much do they know about what is going on out there?
  • What have they heard?
  • Are they an older couple that could possibly need you for protection and your family’s younger muscles to garden?
  • Do they have livestock and chickens running around?
  • Do they have lots of family living nearby? (How many people could be potentially showing up?)

You really need to plan and practice this conversation in your head beforehand so you don’t come across as too intrusive or suspicious. Smile, be friendly and conversational, and for goodness sakes, don’t wear your plate carrier or carry your battle rifle (though you should have a concealed handgun, just in case). You want to look like a Regular Joe and not too militaristic or threatening. Don’t ignore your “gut feelings”. If you don’t get a good feel from the original conversation, move on to the next location. You can always come back if the other locations are worse.

The absolutely most important part of going with this scenario is bugging out of the city immediately and approaching the farmers right away! I have lived in the country most of my life, and most rural country farmers are “salt of the earth” types. However, if you wait too long to approach them and they are watching the evening news each night and seeing the world fall apart on TV, you just might be greeted at the front door with a shotgun. Don’t wait until things fall apart, if this is your fall back strategy. This is also not a good strategy to try on a whim. If you are working on an extreme budget, don’t have anywhere to go, and don’t have much money to put into prepping, you need to put this plan of action into effect immediately. It’s not the best option for bugging out, but looking on Google Earth and taking a drive past these locations is free! If you were really smart, you might even approach them ahead of time and feel them out. Doing so will be very weird and uncomfortable, I’m sure. What if they think you are crazy and kick you out of their house? How embarrassing would that be? But don’t forget you are working on a budget and you don’t have a lot of options. Alternatively, you could just ride it out in town with the other five hundred thousand starving and desperate people and see how that works out for you.

Putting together a well thought out and well-crafted Plan of Action from the beginning is the key to you and your family’s survival. It will take a lot of the stress off you when one of these long-term SHTF scenarios comes to pass. It will be a stressful enough time as it is; not having a plan of action to follow and trying to wing it will make the situation incredibly worse. You will not be thinking as clearly as you are right now. You will make mistakes. Making mistakes in a SHTF situation could ultimately mean your life and the life of a family members. So, if you plan to prepare for hard times, please do the planning first and tailor your preparations to that plan, not the other way around.

Are these strategies easy and without risk? No. There are lots of things to consider and wrap your head around. There will be obstacles to overcome. Are they going to make you uncomfortable? Absolutely. In a perfect world we’d all be millionaire preppers with multi-million dollar survival retreats to bug out to. Would it be a whole lot easier and more comfortable to ignore that small voice in your head that’s telling you my warnings are warranted…and to just continue your preparations at your suburban home? Sure, it would. Please don’t. What if you are wrong about how bad it’s going to get? What if that prepper expert you follow is wrong about “hiding in plain sight”? If you do the research I recommended on human desperation and starvation, I think you will understand where I am coming from. If people in this country truly begin to starve, regardless of the SHTF culprit, please believe me that it’ll likely be ten times worse than I described.

At some point in the future, you may find yourself huddled in your basement in suburbia next to your crying family members while a large raiding force is breaking down your front door upstairs. Sure, you have a battle rifle in your hands, but most of the looters do too, and there are just so many of them…. “How could that many desperate people be so well-armed and working together so well?,” you’ll wonder to yourself. You know your fate. You’ll put up a good fight, but deep down inside you know you’re a dead man. “What’s going to become of my beautiful wife and daughter once I’m gone?,” will be your next thought. That’s a horrible thought that no one wants to have, and prepper experts don’t usually discuss. I promise you, at that moment, you are going to think of this article and wish you hadn’t buried your head in the sand. You are going to wish you had put together a bug out strategy and gotten your family out of harm’s way when you had the chance. I hope that’s not the case, but are you willing to take that risk? It’s just so much easier and a whole lot more comfortable to ignore the truth and make your plans around surviving in place at home. It may be easier, but it sure is a whole lot deadlier.

If you live in a big city, or an area with a lot of people in your proximity, I hope that my three-part article has given you a solid reason to include a plan for bugging out in your preps. Do your research from qualified sources, decide what SHTF scenario makes the most sense to prepare for, and find a bug out location. Make sure you have an effective plan of action in place before spending a lot of money on preparedness supplies. Don’t wait for the right moment; start now. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Jonathan Hollerman is a former military S.E.R.E. (Survival) Instructor and best-selling author on preparedness. Hollerman is a full-time Emergency Preparedness Consultant specializing in Survival Retreat Design through Grid Down Consulting.


  1. 1) I would disagree with the statement ” You need to be …. at least ten miles from any small towns. ”
    Mel Tappan circa 1979 called this “playing Batman in the boondocks” and argued against it. He argued that you needed a resilent community with diverse skills (hospital, welding,etc) and that the best solution was an existing small town in an agricultural area that would have sufficient food to feed the town. Preferably a farming community with a diverse range of crops and animal husbandry rather than a corporate monoculture (e.g both beans and corn plus cattle , not just corn).
    2) Such a town could be fortified and would have enough men to form a militia capable of standing off even large bandit gangs as well as post watchmen at night. That construct shows up time and again in times of turmoil — Greek city states, Tuscan walled hill villages in the Middle Ages, the walls around York, England from the Middle Ages,etc
    2) The “survivalist group” proposed in the article would be an artifical community like the communes of Mel Tappan’s time. Those communes didn’t last very long because they lacked social cohesion and discipline. Mel noted that it was essential to move to a small town years before SHTF — to become an accepted and trusted member of the community instead of the potentially dangerous stranger who just blew into town.
    3) Mel noted the extreme vulnerability of a single retreat out in the countryside — where a man attempting to farm would never know when a sniper’s bullet would hit him between the shoulders. Where every cock crow or fireplace fire could be a dinner bell to hungry bandits– a place far from any help and one whose inhabitants could be tortured at leisure into revealing where all their food and gold was hidden. And God help them if they don’t have any to reveal.
    4) People should look at the textbooks used in college introductory courses to human prehistory. North America is an extremely hard place in which to survive with primitive technology — that is why the natives were always on the verge of starvation and had no technology comparable to European invaders. Stone tools vs iron –not even bronze. No domesticated animals. No significant city states. 3000-4000 years behind the Europeans even though they had started at about the same level 12,000 years ago. Not the fault of the native Americans — but the result of geography. A growing season to short, north -south orientation vs east-west. Here, let Jared Diamond explain it:

  2. PS
    1) A major factor this article overlooks is that the federal government is the 800 lb gorilla of survivalism. It has worked on facilities , caches , comms and plans for 70 years to survive and rebuild from even a major thermonuclear war. It buys ammo a billion rounds at a time.

    And one tenet of COG (Continuity of Government) has always been to get the cities back up and running — because that is where major resources are located and if they are allowed to be lost then the whole economy goes into a tailspin to circa 1700 AD.
    2) COG makes the discussion of survival guns irrelevent — the first time a 50 cal Browning from a tank goes through a pickup truck will be the end of the “Resistance”. Department of Agriculture knows exactly where every grain silo is and what’s in it. Control the grain silos and railroads/interstates and you control the food supply. Control the food supply/daily ration and you control the population.
    3) Anyone curious over what happens to rural areas when the government moves to feed the urban dwellers should look at Wikipedia’s article on the Ukrainian “Holodomor”.
    4) Finally, while Mel Tappan had good ideas on how to survive SHTF, the point is that low probability SHTF did NOT happen.(Yet). Moving to a survivalist retreat in a low density rural area is taking a vow of poverty if SHTF does not happen— just compare the net worth of a 22 year old man who moved to Grants Pass Oregon in 1980 with that of a similar 22 year old man who decided in 1980 to go to Manhattan and work in the Wall Street casino. Who likely has better medical insurance and wealth/resources to survive old age? Who likely lives in a low crime wealthy neighborhood and who is forced to risk living in a poor neighborhood with a high rate of homocides?
    5) If you do want a small farm in the countryside, then it is essential that the farm be CLOSE to the county seat — so that if SHTF you can live behind the town’s walls at night and walk to work your farm in daytime. Also that you be able to attend the town’s councils instead of being the poor guy out in the sticks who gets screwed because he has no voice in the town’s decisions and no opportunity to build relationships and participate in town politics. Also that you be eligible to be a member of the town sheriff’s paramilitary militia reserve police force so that you have legal immunity for use of a gun.

    1. Don Williams, thank you very much for the well thought out and detailed response. I always welcome constructive criticism, which is the life blood of constantly evolving your preparedness thinking and survival plan of action. As a whole, I would agree with your general assertions, just not the overall best size of the group. An ideal survival group in my opinion is five to six family units with a maximum of 20 or so individuals with varying skillsets (Like the book Patriots). A small town of 500 to 1000 people must have a massive (off-grid functioning) critical infrastructure in place pre-SHTF to keep that many desperate people fed on a daily basis for more than a few weeks or months. If your major fear is surviving a massive financial collapse where the electric grid continues to function and major infrastructure like the just-in-time food delivery system is operational, than a small town “could” work out best. In the case of a severe pandemic or long-term grid down scenario, I will have to respectfully disagree on the long-term viability of most small towns in America. As you provided a long response, it’s probably easiest for me to take your points one at a time.
      1)I credit Mel Tappan’s book “Tappan on Survival” for getting me interested in prepping 15 years ago and he is someone whose knowledge I’ve always looked up to. However, you need to remember that Tappan wrote in the late 70’s and his “prepper mentality” was also geared towards the threats of that time period (primarily financial collapse) while taking into account the society and culture of those that lived forty years ago. Losing the electric grid wasn’t even a blimp on the radar back then and its impact would be far less severe than today where every industry is completely reliant on electricity. I would also argue that our society has changed drastically since his writings and today’s culture in America needs to be considered when using his ideas and philosophies.
      I live in a very, very small town in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I love the book “One Second After” and believe it is quite accurate except for one thing. They NEVER adequately explain how they kept 1,000 mouths fed on a daily basis. A thousand people eat an insane amount of food. From a psychology standpoint, it doesn’t matter if you are an inner city person or a country person. When starving and desperate, they are all going to act the same with the exception that country folk are typically better armed…
      In the 1970’s, small towns were not completely dependent on electricity and computers for their survival. Back in the day, you had ma and pa grocery stores in the country where nearly 90% of their produce was sourced locally. They typically had massive store rooms in the back filled with food. Today, corporate giants have bought out the most ma and pa grocery stores in the small towns and their produce comes from hundreds if not thousands of miles away. They no longer keep much “in the back” because computerized registers keep the shelves stocked with daily deliveries from a computerized distribution center. Because of this (and many other reasons) it is nearly impossible to make a living by operating a small farm and selling local. What is happening on a massive scale throughout rural America, is that the children of small farms are leaving to other (better paying) industries. Big farmers are buying up or leasing the smaller farms as they go under and growing ever larger operations geared to commercial crops and sales. There are still a lot of small farms where I live but I’d estimate over half of the acreage out here is now farmed by someone other than the property owner. There are three very wealthy farmers in our area and the rest are living hand to mouth while trying to hang on to what they got.
      The same goes with livestock. Forty years ago nearly every farm had a handful of cows and pigs that they raised to feed their own family and to sell at auction to augment their crop income. That is quite rare these days and very few small farms do this. It’s impossible to compete at auction with commercial livestock operations and it’s cheaper to buy your meat at the store than to grow it yourself (in a lot of cases but not all). Most of the small farm pig pens now stand empty and overgrown with weeds. You rarely even see chickens wandering around the small farms like you used to. While massive livestock operations has made meat, milk, and eggs considerably cheaper, it has also resulted in less small time farmers doing it themselves.
      I don’t believe the local farming community has the ability to grow enough food to feed most small towns today. You are also assuming that those farmers are going to be willing to give over their family’s livelihood to those in the towns. As a mayor, are you going to be willing to take those resources by force? Add on top of all of this the fact that most of the big farming today revolves around electricity. Very few farmers milk their cows by hand anymore.
      Forty years ago, a good majority of people in small towns had wood burning furnaces or wood stoves. While some still do, most people have moved over to forced air and electric heat.
      The two other big items that you may be overlooking is that most small towns are still on public water which needs massive amounts of electricity to function. Also, nearly every small town today has a public sewer system. In the event of a grid down situation, you are going to find raw sewage backing up into most homes. A good portion of the homes in town are going to become uninhabitable. There are hundreds of other reasons why losing the electric grid will make life in small towns very, very difficult.
      All that being said, I will agree that in the case of a financial collapse, a small town may survive and even thrive like Tappan mentions. In the event of a grid down scenario, most small towns are not going to be able to overcome the extreme obstacles produced by losing electricity in an new world reliant on technology. In the case of a massive pandemic, surrounding yourself in a town with hundreds or thousands of potentially sick people is never a good idea, in my opinion.
      2)If people can stay fed then you are correct. If people are starving and desperate, I do not think they will work together very well in today’s culture and mentality. Again, you are looking at historical references to times where “the general mentality” of those populations was drastically different to today’s culture. Most members of those societies (even the wealthy) knew how to build fires, shelters, hunt, grow food, store food, etc… Today, the life skills needed to survive a world without electricity are gone to 99% of the population. I would argue, even to the country people (who have spent the last three generations relying on electricity).
      Social cohesion is absolutely falling apart at the seams today and its getting rapidly worse. We are being pushed into groups by a dishonest media for political purposes and the mistrust of those that think/look/act differently than you is at an all-time high. The social degradation and problems that used to only plague the inner city have now leaked out into suburbia and even the small towns as well. The entitlement mentality, the need for instant gratification and answers through technology, the lack of work ethic, the destruction of the family unit, the loss of respect for your elders, the negativity towards biblical truths and morality and the rise of moral relativism to take it’s place. Look at the TV shows and culture in the late seventies… Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, etc, which taught important life lessons to society at large. You can’t even find a show like that today. The Kardashian’s, reality TV, graphic violence and degradation permeate the culture at large today, including the small towns. While I may agree that the “culture” in Small Town USA is better than the inner city, it’s still a very far cry from what it was in Tappan’s time.
      In addition to this, the amount of country folk who have grown dependent on government subsidies almost matches the inner city unlike 40 years ago. Four decades ago, the small-town culture was VERY self-sufficient minded and “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” type of mentality. Those days are gone my friend. Today, nearly 40% of Americans rely on the government for some or all of their sustenance. You have nearly half of the population that believes it’s “someone else’s” responsibility to take care of them. I think the small town people working together for a common good idea is going to be a very rare thing. There is just too high of a dependent class even in the small towns. For every small town that survives and thrives, there will be ten that fall apart very quickly
      2)The hippie communes of Tappan’s time fell apart because there were better options for life. You could walk out of your hippie commune, get a job, raise a family, and make a living in a civilized world. I believe that most survival groups will stay together for lack of a better option for survival, but there are exceptions to every rule and you will be correct in some cases where a better opportunity presents itself (a bigger and better thriving community nearby with less issues). I agree to moving to a small town pre-SHTF and becoming a valued member of the community. In a financial meltdown situation, it would likely be better to ride it out in a small town if there is good, moral leadership and they are keeping the ship afloat. In the case of a pandemic or long-term loss of the electric grid, I still think it’s better to get away from any large group of potentially soon to be starving and desperate people regardless of their pedigree.
      3)You are 100% correct here and is something A LOT of preppers overlook. That is why I always recommend 10-12 adults per group. A single family unit will have a very difficult time of it after the SHTF. That being said, I would still prefer that route as opposed to staying in a large city (which is the overall point of the article). It’s not a good situation but it’s better than being surrounded by desperate and hungry masses which will kill you just as quickly.
      4)I agree with your overall point. Any way you slice it, surviving post SHTF in America is going to suck.
      In response to your PS Email
      1)Again, your thoughts on government are geared to a grid up SHTF situation like a massive financial collapse. Continuation of Government (COG) is something that will be a concern during a financial collapse and pandemic. However, in the case of a long-term grid down scenario, most American’s (even preppers) are unaware that the US military complex is 99% reliant on the civilian electric grid. There are multiple DOD reports (you can read one here ) warning Congress that in the event of a long term nationwide blackout, the military will NOT be able to respond to social unrest or aid in the response to the crisis.
      I realize that some prepper “resistance” group fighting off the military or some invading army makes for a good book, it’s just not reality in a grid down scenario. Most military bases have enough backup generation power for a few days and that’s all. After that, they are in the exact same boat as everyone else. The few thousand cases of MRE’s most bases have will be quickly eaten and their gas pumps and just-in-time food delivery will shut down after a few days. The COG may keep them fed a few days, weeks, or months longer than the rest of the population, but eventually, they will be starving and trying to survive like everyone else…
      It’s not going to be like Hollywood, where half-ton military trucks are rolling down the road with food to feed people. The small sections of the military that will be functional will be used by the government to protect those in power and their stored-up resources like you mentioned. Continuation of Government doesn’t work without electricity. After a grid down scenario, COG will be Cheyenne Mountain and places like that where the politicians sit around, eating themselves fat, watching the rest of civilization fall apart. No matter how badly the government may want to help, there is zero plausibility of them keeping urban centers fed after a grid down event. There is no way to feed 300+ million Americans without electricity. It can’t happen. If they do focus on keeping certain cities or areas fed… stay away because they will quickly be overwhelmed and it will fall apart (AKA, don’t go to the “fema” camps to get food).
      In the case of a pandemic or financial collapse, I will agree that they could end up being the 800lb gorilla in the room. But that only aids me in my opinion of steering clear of small towns which I will discuss in a later point.
      2)COG does NOT make the discussion of survival guns irrelevant IMO. Having the best quality battle rifles, getting professional training and putting those skills to use in squad tactics, and force multipliers like, night vision scopes, FLIR optics, and suppressed weapons will go a very long way to defending yourself against localized threats like neighbors and small, local, gangs of looters.
      However…and Don, we probably agree on my next point but I’m going to say it for others reading this. If you intend to use those guns and tactics to try to fight off the military rolling into town… you need to put down your prepper fantasy books and drink a nice warm glass of reality. If you think your little band of “resistance” is going to go toe to toe with today’s military, you’re going to be a dead man. In Tappan’s day… maybe. Today’s military isn’t like the days of the “Red Dawn” movie or Vietnam where they send a coordinated, boots on the ground assault. If you get in a skirmish with the military, they are going to send a drone after you and your group. They will track your phones, radio communications, and other electronic signature. They WILL find you eventually and they will send a missile through your retreat’s front door. Going toe-to-toe with tanks, helicopters with FLIR, and C-130 spectre gunships is clown shoes stupid. You can’t just hide in the marsh from the enemy anymore like they did in “The Patriot” movie. I advise against fighting a guerrilla style fight also. A few pot-shots here and there are one thing, but if you become too much of a nuisance, they’ll find the rock you are hiding under and dispose of you before you know it. Don, we obviously agree on that point.
      You’re best bet is to keep a low profile and out of the fray.
      I don’t believe in building prepper fortresses for my clients. I don’t think a “defend it like the Alamo” strategy is wise in a post SHTF scenario. I think positioning yourself in the best location to minimize someone stumbling across you is better. You should have serious OPSEC plans for your retreat, LP/OP’s, and develop strategies to defend your retreat against local threats. Any threat to your retreat that you can overwhelm with superior firepower and tactics… do so. That being said, if a military convoy, or a massive raiding party from the nearest big city is rolling down your road… GET OUT! Go through a basement tunnel or just run out the back door to a rally point. Most preppers spend tons of money trying to make their house into a fortress to protect their food… stop it! Take that money and invest it in a very well hidden, underground structure somewhere else on your property and OUTSIDE the four walls of your house. Let the big raiding force come in and take the 10% of goods in your retreat without a bullet fired and no friends or family members of yours shot up and killed. When they leave, just move back in. If they ransacked your place, they’ll likely not come back. Losing “stuff” (even food) is always better than losing a family member in the fight.
      3) I agree with this point and it’s a perfect example of why NOT to try and survive post-SHTF in a small farming town especially during a pandemic or financial collapse when the military is still operational. The military isn’t going to bother with confiscating minimal supplies from a little group of survivalists deep in the woods (even if they even know where you are, hide the 90%). They are going to focus on the grain silos, livestock, etc in rural America… The same grain silo and herd of cattle, that your small town has just confiscated for the its own use. If the military is running around gathering grain, livestock, and supplies from rural America, thriving small towns are target #1. The more successful your small town is at feeding itself means the more you have that others want. It’s not just the military (which won’t be around in a grid down event) its massive, well-armed, and seasoned gangs of looters moving throughout the country like locusts. Thriving small towns are going to be a very highly visible target of opportunity.
      4)I agree with this. Homesteading is taking a vow of poverty to a degree (depending on outside sources of income that are available to you).
      5) I disagree. You just explained how the small towns are going to try and confiscate (or negotiate with) the neighboring farms for the town’s sustenance. The mayor or other leadership has to be successful in this endeavor if it plans to succeed in feeding it’s people and keeping them from rioting. If you are too close to the county seat or small town, it’s YOUR farm or retreat that is going to be asked to “pitch in” for the common good. If you say no, you’ll likely end up in a ditch somewhere. Having a farm/retreat too close to any town is a bad idea, IMO.

      Exhaling slowly… Did I get a little long winded? haha. Don, a lot of the info I wrote above was just stream of consciousness and some of it doesn’t even apply to what you were saying. I have a tendency to go down rabbit holes. Please don’t take any offense to anything I’ve written (sometimes I write kind of snarky for fun and none of it was meant to be mean-spirited towards you). I have a feeling we are going to have to agree to disagree on certain things and I’m fine with that… I hope you have a great week, sir!

      1. Thanks for the reply, Jonathan. I also welcome constructive criticism –and feel that the person delivering it is doing me a favor akin to advice from a gun instructor or boxing coach. Don’t worry about offending me.

        1) It is hard to predict how things will work out because one is trying to predict the actions of 3 levels of government plus 320 million plus people. On the one hand, I think six family units are too small. In a SHTF chaos the defense force would need to be much larger. Assuming a fortified village, you need 2 to 3 watchmen at night plus a roving full time patrol in daytime to constantly scout hundreds of square miles in the surrounding area and give early alert of a hostile force so a timely decision can be made of whether to flee or fight. Evacuation of women and children could be difficult if the hostile force is large enough to have roving scouts of its own. Fleeing to hidden bunkers is one approach but such bunkers can be quickly discovered by tracking dogs. (In WWII the British created a clandestine Stay Behind force within the Home Guard to hamper a German invasion with sabotage and assassination. They built such bunkers and caches but concluded tracking dogs would result in the death of most units.)

        2) Trying to engage in any commerce in unsafe conditions would greatly raise the burden on the defense force. As an illustration, note that it can take 11-14 bodyguards to protect just one person today. Two to stay behind and guard the safe house to prevent ambush on return–one monitors CCTV screens and the other checks out visitors, potential invaders,etc. 5 guards to transport the person in an escape car and attack car plus screen the client on the four directions when walking. In ambush, two attack a hostile force while 3 protect the fleeing client. Two drivers to stay with the transport and prevent its sabotage. One more person who has gone ahead and scouted the destination to verify it’s safe –search for explosives, ambushs, snipers etc. Throw in a countersniper and you’re talking 11. Plus several more to cook, do laundry, stand watch at the safe house at night etc.) Your small survival group could be quickly whittled down in a hostile environment.

        3) Your group might survive if it stayed in a hidden bunker for 6 months or so until the chaos burned itself out — with the population greatly shrunk by starvation. Mel Tappan thought such concealment unlikely to succeed but during the Cold War AT&T built massive underground bunkers on the top of mountains in Virginia and Pennsylvania which have remained largely undiscovered in the 50 years since. (Bunkers were to support special COG communications.)

        But when your unit emerged it might find it hard to join up with any larger town still existing. On approach, you might either be attacked out of hand — or welcomed so that you could be robbed and killed later in your sleep. Because you are now foreigners and hence legitimate prey.

        4) Mel Tappan recommended a small town of 3000 to 5000 people because he thought it would be small enough to maintain unity and effective decision-making while having the resources that a small unit could not possess. A hospital and doctors , for example. Such towns in the past had discipline for the simple reason that there was a small elite who provided many of the jobs and had great influence with the other businessman who provided the remainer. I agree with you that welfare, local economic collapses, meth and oxycontin have undermined that in many places. But not all. Obviously, a problem arises if the major local industry goes bankrupt because it can’t receive or service orders from remote customers. The Roman Empire in the West collapsed in part because it could no longer protect shipping on the Mediterranean Sea — including the huge shipments of grain from Egypt.

        5) Could the military keep the interstates and railroads safe from bandits in a grid down situation? For a while, IMO. Look at where Army forts are situated in CONUS. Shortwave comms don’t consume much electricity and can handle email as well as voice. COG not only has the military’s massive comms, it also can take control of civilian comms as well. Civilian shortwave operators come under the command of the FCC and RACES. Plus COG can fly transport planes dropping millions of PSYOP propaganda leaflets and takes control of the high power clear channel AM Radio
        stations under EMS. Announcing the death penalty for a long list of offenses during the “present emergency”.

        On the other hand, the federal government and military’s power is sustained by a $700 Billion/year umbilical cord into the US economy and I can see where things could get interesting if that cord is cut. The military is “dependent” on the grid to maintain its current high level of capability — but it also has generators and fuel caches for at least a short term sustainment (1 month?? with degradation increasing thereafter?) COG set up the EMS radio stations with that emergency electricity supply and I would think the same would have been done for other essential units.

        6) Food is certainly a problem if the Midwest grain silos are taken off the table. Anyone who has used a mattock will know that you can burn up a lot more calories growing crops by hand than you can recover at harvest — a faster route to starvation on anyplace other than certain river banks. However, the people to horse ratio in 1900-1915 was around 3.5 to 1. Today it is roughly 33 to 1 for the USA as a whole and much worse in the Northeast USA. 171 people to 1 horse in Massachusetts, 308 to 1 in Rhode Island, 95 in New York, 105 to1 in New Jersey — 48.5 to 1 in Pennsylvania.

        Situation is better in the Redoubt: Montana 7.1 to 1, Wyoming 5.1 to 1, Idaho 8.8 to 1 but 51 to 1 for California. So most of us are screwed when the tractors run out of fuel and parts. Although Pennsylvania is huge and the rural areas obviously have a better people/horse ratio than Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Plus the horse would probably be quickly killed and eaten in those cities. (Like you I live in Pennsylvania.)

        1. PS
          1) One benefit of a town I mentioned earlier may need more explanation — the legal protection for use of lethal force that is extended to a sworn member of the town’s police force. People talk of a survivor group defending themselves with assault rifles but society conditions us that lethal force can be used only by the police or military not by individuals. If your life was in danger , could you depend on your buddy firing to save you if he is suddenly worried whether a murder charge would be forever hanging over his head if he did so? And that you could forever have the power to bring that charge with your testimony if your relationship later broke down. Criminals groups are weak because they constantly fear betrayal — that someone will snitch. Often with good reason.
          2) Legally, policemen are accountable and their power does not extend that much farther than what civilians have the right to do in self-defense. But the reality in jury trials is different.
          3) This is an issue because any group that succeeds in growing food may have to defend it. What if a herd of refugees shows up to raid your corn field at harvest time? Returning fire at armed bandits is one thing — shooting unarmed Americans is something different. But if you don’t fire, who starves? I don’t have the answer.

          1. Hey Don, thanks for your reply to my reply…haha I want to first start out by saying that there is very little in any of your comments that I disagree with if one is preparing for a serious financial collapse and societal breakdown on a massive (but not a complete collapse) scale. All your rational is sound “IF” the electric grid stays up and running. Your philosophies are sound “IF” Continuity of Government stays functioning. Your recommendations are good if food distribution and communication (TV, radio, and news reports) is not shut down. Last your recommendations are solid if the electric grid stays up and the modern tools, appliances, HVAC, Sewer, and Water infrastructure is functioning in that town of 5,000 people you are suggesting.
            Losing the electric grid long term is a newer (last 20yrs) threat to America because of our growing dependence on computers to run our daily lives. A lot of the “prepper mindset” has not caught up with the times that we live in today… in my humble opinion. I will again say that I am a huge fan of Tappan, but his rationales and philosophies MUST be retrofitted to our current society and the how our social infrastructure has changed over the last 40 years. I still maintain that a long-term loss of the electric grid is a very imminent threat and the plan of action needed and the preparations to survive such a dark world are DRASTICALLY different than surviving a social breakdown with modern infrastructure in place. So, while we may see eye-to-eye on surviving a financial collapse, I respectfully and strongly disagree with your plan of actions post grid-down event. I believe that if you try to survive inside a mass population center (of almost any size) it will become very deadly, very quick. Because of this, I believe it is vital to prepare for the worst-case scenario (losing the grid). If you are prepared to live in that world and a financial collapse or other grid up SHTF scenario comes to pass, you should have no problem adjusting to the situation. If your plans and preparations strictly revolve around living with electricity, then surviving a world without could be very deadly.
            Again, I’ll take your points one at a time again:
            1) I believe your thought process on survival is strongly rooted in the “protect the fort” mindset. I advocate a different strategy. The idea of building a “prepper castle” and defending it to the last man is the common strategy of most prepper fiction and forums. I believe in maximizing the defensibility of your location as much as possible, while still trying to make your retreat cabin look as “unimposing” as possible. Coils of razor wire, earthen berms, steel shutters, concrete construction, and a roof covered in solar panels screams prepper retreat. It presents the image to anyone who sees the place pre-SHTF, or anyone who stumbles across it, that all those defenses are protecting something very important and valuable (like a basement full of food). Visible defenses like that will bring hungry and starving people like moths to the flame. You want your cabin to look like any other in your area with it’s defenses capabilities well hidden.
            A good strategy would be to use your superior firepower, skills, and force multipliers (hidden sniper holes, LP/OP’s, suppressors, FLIR monocular, and NVD’s) to overwhelm any of the small local threats that come your way. If ANY large force is approaching, it’s vital to retreat to a rally location and let the force take any food they can pilfer from your home. The key here is having 90+% of your food in a separate cache away from the cabin retreat and only keep a couple of day’s worth of food inside the retreat. You are correct about the dogs finding bunkers which is why I advocate hiding the entrance to the bunker in a location that you frequent often like under an animal shelter, chicken coop, or garden shed, next to the outhouse, etc. That way the dogs leading the soldiers to a place that you use often and it will be dismissed as normal. You don’t want the dogs to lead the soldiers to a pile of brush covering the door to your underground bunker. The other reason behind this is even without the dogs, bi-daily trips to your underground cache will eventually wear a path in the ground (or snow) directly to your hidden bunker. There needs to be some other reason for you to be wearing that path down in the dirt (like feeding your chickens). I can’t tell you how many retreats I’ve been to where the landowner covered their fully stocked $150,000 bunker with a pile of sticks. Placement of a bunker is every bit as important as the supplies you store in it. The six family units versus a town of 5,000, I’ll cover in point 4.

            2) Your plan of action mindset seems to revolve more around having a small private army to fight the large roving gangs of looters. I can cover this point by disagreeing with the initial assertion. I think entering into ANY commerce or bartering for the first 12-18 months post SHTF is terrible, terrible advice that is often put forth. If you are running around the local area trading and bartering then YES, I would agree an 11 man force is warranted (and maybe a little on the low side). Ffor at least the first year after the grid comes down, you should not be leaving the homestead for any reason short of a life-threatening emergency. Every time you leave your retreat, you risk stumbling into a well-coordinated ambush where even 20 well-trained men could easily be wiped out. Every single time you meet someone to barter with, it is a potentially life-threatening situation. You have no way to know what their homestead or retreat situation looks like. If their retreat or group is failing or runs out of food the first winter, who’s retreat do you think they are coming to for? Are they bartering with you just to find out what you have?
            I am not a complete isolationist though and I think one of the main reasons to prepare is to help people long-term and rebuild society. However, I think the best course of action is to isolate your group for a time and wait while the large majority of the masses die off. Once that happens, you can set up lines of communications with your neighbors that made it through and start bartering. This is also the time where building small communities or combining forces into larger groups makes sense. A few years down the road, maybe a small town will be viable.

            3) I agree with you on the bunker idea. The idea of living 6 – 12 months straight underground in a confined space will make most people go crazy. Bunkers are important for caching food and short term survival after nuclear fallout. However, I do subscribe to having your BOL tucked away in a very hidden location and staying there long term. I believe in a homesteading approach to survival while becoming self-sufficient. That way you don’t NEED to go to town. You are correct that approaching any group or town post SHTF is a very dangerous proposition. If it is needed, then long-term reconnaissance of the location before approaching them is critical.
            4) Again, Mel Tappan’s recommendations revolved around a financial collapse and not around a total social breakdown after a grid down scenario. This is an area where a lot of prepper experts get it flat out wrong because they have never researched how much food infrastructure is needed to support these “small towns”. Without daily shipments of food from distribution centers, a town of 5,000 people will soon be every bit as starving as the inner city of New York City. Though they may last a couple days or weeks longer. The average person eats 2,000 pounds of food each year. That means that the local mayor of that 5,000 person town would need to supply its populace with 28,000 pounds of food each day (that’s 14 tons of food on a daily basis!). Consider that a grid down event happens instantly in most scenarios. That small town’s current food supply will be gone within a week or two (MAX). The local mayor/leader will only have two weeks to figure out how to start supplying his population with 14 tons of food on a daily basis. What if its November when the event hits and it will be eight months until the local crops are ready to harvest? Grain silos? While big and imposing, those local grain silos will quickly be emptied pulling 14 tons of grain from them every single day. Local livestock (even a big operation) will quickly be decimated and then you are left without a renewable source of meat.
            How is that food distributed? Very few of the population will have operable cook stoves or ovens. How many of those 5,000 people have wheat grinders? Likely you would need to set up “chow halls” to feed the people. How much diesel are you going to go through running generators for 5 locations to feed the people on a 24-7 rotation? What happens a week in when the dawn dishwashing soap is gone, how do you clean all that cookware and dishes properly to prevent bacteria building up on the dishes you serve the food on? You are banking on the local farmers growing food long term for the town (which I don’t even believe is possible)… but what happens after month 1 or 2 when all the diesel/gas in town is gone and the tractors are no longer operational. I promise you there will not be any tanker trucks driving cross country from the Texas refineries to resupply your town. Any fuel depots will quickly be confiscated by the military/government and the refineries will not function without electricity. Even if shipments of refined gas were sent from overseas, how far down the highway do you think a tanker truck would make it before being ambushed by locals needing fuel? How do you grow 14 tons of food and harvest it… all by hand? Horses? You may be able to get a couple teams up and running (the horses that haven’t been eaten yet… oh yeah, don’t forget you’ll need to keep the horses fed too) but they don’t have a 3-point hitch and I’d be willing to bet most towns don’t have operable horse drawn combines from the 1920’s laying around.
            What happens after week three when all the toilet paper has been used? That 14 tons of food your town eats every day comes out their backsides and just the logistics of maintaining latrines in a town of 5,000 people is overwhelming. Your hand soap will quickly run out. With raw sewage, lack of fresh and clean water, lack of soap for cleaning hands, inability to bath your populace or clean their underwear regularly, you will quickly see Cholera, Dysentery, and many other medieval diseases make a big comeback due to the lack of the sanitary conditions we enjoy and take for granted today. 5,000 people living in close proximity to each other and working together everyday will help those diseases spread like wildfire.
            So lets assume you plan to ride out the storm in a small town. Who is the leader? Are they efficient? Are they moral? You talk of the large fighting/policing force that a small town could provide to deter outside threats. But that fighting force also presents a very real threat to the people in the town itself. In a grid down event, people are quickly going to be hungry and desperate. The living conditions are going to be horrific and eventually resemble the slums in a third world country. Even if you could keep the people moderately fed, everything (cooking, cleaning, laundry, water collection, hunting, wood chopping, latrine digging, patrols, on and on) will have to be done by hand. Most people are going to be working very long days to keep the community functioning. The populace will quickly grow depressed and overwhelmed in those conditions. There is going to be a segment that refuses to work or is incapable of working like the elderly and sick, but still need to be fed). Factions of dissidents will likely grow of people who disagree or are frustrated with the leadership. There will have to be very strict rules in place to keep that type of desperate and depressed society in check. I hate to say it, but heavy handed tactics and stiff punishments will likely be put into place.
            So after a while, who is going to keep the leadership and police force in check? I think you run the risk of being in a town setting with very strict rules and punishments and those in power will CERTAINLY take advantage of those not in power. Don, I mentioned it in the article, but I strongly recommend you read the book “The Lucifer Effect” by the phycologist, Philip Zimbardo. It is VITAL that every prepper read that book to better understand the human psyche in these types of scenarios. Most preppers envision everyone holding hands in these situations while singing “Cumbaya” like the movies. With starving and desperate people, no federal oversight, the ability to make their own rules, and no one to stop them, those tactical fighting forces will soon, likely be running that town with an iron fist. You could end up in a very bad and dangerous situation not much better than a FEMA camp.
            I am only covering a handful of the thousands of logistical issues a “small town” will have to overcome after a grid down event. These recommendations are coming from actual experience on my part. I was hired last year and met with a mayor of a small town (around 1,000 people) to discuss his planning for a collapse scenario. Living there his entire life, he truly cared for “his town”, and desperately wanted to put together a game plan he could initiate after a SHTF scenario. He hired me out of pocket and the town council was unaware of our meeting. We spent two very long days game-planning a grid down event and discussing the potential obstacles and the overall logistical nightmare that would ensue and how to best prepare his town beforehand. Trust me when I say… it is NOT possible to overcome without an insane amount of expensive off-grid infrastructure in place BEFORE the event. He has now made plans with a smaller group and will be bugging out with his family when the time comes.
            5) No, the US military will be unable to keep the highway systems safe. Wrap your head around them trying to protect 164,000 miles of US highways. It’s not going to happen. If you are travelling the open road after the first week, you are taking your life in your hands. Don, did you read the DOD report I linked to? The average US military base has 1-2 days of backup generation capabilities… NOT a month! I think the government will try and keep the bases resupplied as long as possible, but the logistics of maintaining that more than a few weeks or months is not conceivable. The average base has 5-10k people on them. Sometimes more. Without the interstate trucking system, cargo planes will not be able to keep up. Not to mention the amount of non-replenishable jet fuel they will consume. It will run out at some point. The military bases in the US operate EXACTY like the civilian infrastructure and rely on the civilian electric grid to function. There is lots of reliable documentation showing 99% of the CONUS military is reliant on the civilian electric grid. Read the report. It straight up says, that if the US grid is taken down the US military will NOT be able to respond to the situation… Do some research on this, Don. If we lose the grid the military will be in the same boat as the public in a very short period of time. COG may keep resupply, and general order for a short time, but eventually IT WILL all fall apart. Likely they will focus on keeping the leadership’s underground bunker locations protected and the American people will be on their own.
            In the case of a financial collapse, the military is the 800 pound gorilla in the room like you mentioned in the last comment. The grain silos next to your town could easily be confiscated to feed people in some big city in another state. Is your small town defense force going to fight off the military like in the sequel to “One Second After”…? I think not. You may put up a good fight, but eventually the drones, tanks, Specter Gunships, Apache Helicopters, and A-10 Warthogs are going to wipe out your town’s defenses (probably in short order) without them putting a single boot on the ground in your area.
            On a side note. I agree with you that the military WILL take over comms. Most “prepper” ham radio frequencies are published all over the internet. For one, in a grid down event, the repeaters will not be operational for long and your range will be limited to your base system and antennae capabilities. On top of that, I’m sure the government will put out massive propaganda campaign to try and keep the population in order as long as possible. I fully expect them to “Jam” or “Bombard” those prepper frequencies to prevent us communicating to one another and passing along information that counters the government “narrative”. They did it to Cuba during the Cold War and I would expect nothing less during a societal collapse scenario.
            6) I disagree. I fully believe a small group “CAN” grow the majority of the food needed by hand. People have been self sufficient in remote areas for thousands of years. Even single family units have been successful doing so, although they typically have skills that our current population and most preppers don’t have. That is why having as much long term food put away as possible is vital. Having a big supply of cheap, high calorie-laden staples like rice, pasta, and beans to supplement your vegetables is important. Also, most prepper groups that do not have an “experienced” gardener will likely fail eventually. Like Rawles recommends, living at your retreat location and practicing the skills needed to become self-sufficient pre-SHTF is the best scenario. I also realize that people have to make a living pre-SHTF and typically that involves living in a big city. Even if you are forced to live in town, it’s vital that you keep some rabbits, hens, and put your gardening skills to use in your back yard instead of trying to figure it out after the SHTF.
            This (combined with my response to point 4) is why 20-30 people is a much better scenario than a small town of 1000-5000. It is realistic for a small group to grow and store their sustenance becoming self-sufficient long-term. Growing food and feeding 1000-5000 mouths will be next to impossible without modern infrastructure, the ability to buy bulk seed, fertilizer, insecticides, re-supply fuel for tractors, etc..
            In response to your PS comment:
            Points 1) and 2) Again, I go back to Human Psychology. In the event of a financial collapse where COG and national policing practices staying in place, your points are warranted. In the case of a grid down event, I fear the US Constitution will not be upheld in most cases. With a half-crazed, starving, and desperate populace, most small towns and groups will develop their own rules to live by. If they intend to keep their people in check, those will likely involve stiff penalties and I doubt anyone is going to get a jury of their peers… These small town defense forces are going to resemble and operate more as a militia and fighting force than a police force issuing paper tickets and 21st century police procedures in place.
            Yes I absolutely do trust my “buddies” to have my back when the time comes. There are four of us at my family retreat that have gone through many professional training courses together, train regularly, and practice squad tactics.
            3) Having a herd of refugees show up at harvest time is a very specific situation. That would truly suck. They will be dealt with like any other group. If unarmed, a few warning shots and a good show of force should hopefully do the trick. A large “herd” of refugees will likely be armed and resemble more of a raiding force. Our strategy is to bug out the tunnel network and get the family members to a rally point and cache of food to sustain them for up to three days. Our four-man security team will stay behind and position themselves in pre-positioned sniper holes. With suppressed rifles at distance, and taking turns firing 10-15 minutes apart (to help prevent precise directional identification), looters in the open fields (garden) will be completely unprotected. Hopefully, after watching a few of their comrades get shot, they will move on to easier targets.
            It’s very important that I don’t come across as uncaring and a lover of violence. I’m not. Hopefully, it would never come to that and I have infrastructure in place to deter such a force from ever making all the way to our actual homestead. That is assuming they would even walk down the driveway. We have a gate at the end of our driveway. I have commercially made signage that exactly resembles the signage of a cell phone tower access road. With the mailbox removed, I doubt very many refugees will want to take the long hike down into our valley if they assume our driveway just is a utility access road. I have other measures in place as well which I’m not going to divulge here. The key is that building a fighting force for your retreat is vital, but it is a last resort. ALL gunfights are treated by quickly retreating under heavy cover fire. We are not trying to take a hill on some Island in the South Pacific during WWII. We are trying to survive and live to fight another day. I am prepared to take someone’s life to protect my family and loved ones, but I pray it never comes to that. The further tucked away you can be, and the less people you surround yourself with or encounter, the better your odds of avoiding a needless confrontation gunfight.
            Don, in closing, and please correct me if I am wrong… but I get the feeling that you have been preparing for a financial collapse or other similar SHTF scenario where the electric grid and governments continue to function. You have obviously been researching this scenario and preparing for it for a very long time per the educated responses and well thought out points you make. Again, in the case of a financial collapse, most of the points you make have legitimacy to them. Surviving in a small town “may” work out for you in that particular case.
            However, in the case of a grid down event, I don’t believe things will work out as rosy as you anticipate. I severely worry about the social situation of that small town and doubt even the best leaders will be able to hold things together for very long. Maybe 1 in a 100 small towns will make it through long term. This is why the Congressional EMP Commission estimate 90% of our population will die within the first 12 months…. And that’s just the first 12 months. I’m willing to bet your mayor and sheriff don’t have the “serious prepper mindset” or the knowledge on what to do in a SHTF scenario. Don, I truly hope and pray that you can gain a leadership position in your small town and help them through. Good luck to you sir and I appreciate the feedback as always…

          2. Thanks Jonathan. You have some good points but I would note the following:
            a) A 20 person group does not have the specialized skills and knowledge that a small town does. A hospital with doctors and facilities to do surgery to treat wounds, for example. Capability depends upon division of labor. You can’t pick up 10 years of medical education by skimming a textbook.
            It is a lot easier for a skilled farmer to direct unskilled labor in cultivating the land than for an unskilled person to pick up medical training.
            b) If things do go feudal then I think towns will not welcome strangers six months post SHTF.
            b) The military has known about EMP since 1962 — it was a secondary effect of nuclear war. They have been prepping for nuclear war for the last 50 years. Look at the massive depots the DLA and GSA have scattered around the country. Operations are different from service support — obviously Marine and Army units can deploy without needing a place to plug in their hair dryers. The only electricity needed is for comms and lighting and their trucks can charge batteries for that.
            c) During Y2k , it was predicted that the railroads could not operate because of computerized controls. At the time, my father –who worked on the railroad — said this was false, took me to a switching location and showed how the switch could be unlocked and manually operated in accord with radio directions. I think adaptation could keep things running better than you think. Your scenario of sewers backing up, for example, is negated simply by having people built latrines in their backyard — since water would be needed for drinking, not flushing. A 4 bedroom house can shelter 6 families, not 1 , and a town’s footprint would shrink greatly absent plentiful gasoline. Water could be hauled from wells in the outlying areas — initially by cars, later by wagons. If 20 people can grow their own food then 2000 can — it is simply 100 units of 20 people. The Amish do it, albeit with a stockpile of cultivated land and horses.
            d) Snipers can be terrifying but here on the East Coast, it is hard to keep attackers from approaching to within 100 yards by use of cover and concealment, trees, ground contours,etc. Fire and maneuver.
            e) A major factor to consider is whether the government will be able to execute Cold War plans to evacuate the urban populations and board them in houses in the rural countryside. Much of eastern PA, for example, is slated to receive New York City and Philadelphia refugees. If you have several families from the inner city installed in your house by FEMA you may find your paramilitary options limited. Especially if FEMA announces rewards for snitches reporting “anti-social” behavior.

          3. PS Absent patrols, It is difficult to detect hostile attackers approaching a homestead, esp at night. If SHTF, Night vision devices and electronic alarms are not sustainable long term — walls , armed guards and patrols have worked for 3000 years.

  3. I think Jonathan’s fourth option leaves a family in a precarious position if no farms work out or the dynamics change such that Farmer Guy wants you to go! This means the family would have to retrieve supplies from storage facility and go live in the nearby woods. Perhaps learning the necessary outdoor bushcraft skills would be prescient for the retreat-less family!

    1. That is an incredibly dangerous situation (bushcraft skills or not). If you don’t have a destination that is willing to take you, you are little more than a refugee and we see how that is working out around the world. Refugee status is better than dead, but what sets that person apart from the rest of the horde leaving the cities? Jonathan is right – get out while the getting is good!

      1. Hi Hugh, agreed that leaving a major metro area like Dallas/Ft. Worth is best. Yet as Jonathan argued, not all persons can afford a retreat nor have rural relatives & friends to approach to partner up. The strategy to research and approach farmers/strangers to create a bug out retreat leaves too many variables on the table that could be untenable in critical times. Not as many”refugees” will attempt to rough it as some hypothesize.
        A more significant issue is how the USA figures into the eschatological discussion. As a post-trib proponent, I hold that a) Christians will be here for the last 3.5 years, and b) Revelations 18 seems to best fit a pre-rapture destruction of this country. Meaning: hear the prophetic word from God’s two witnesses when it’s time to leave America. Thanks. Dave T from Texas

        1. @Anonymous, yes, that fourth option is problematic. But rather than discuss why it’s such a horrible option, and we all agree that when the time comes, getting out of the city is paramount for survival, doesn’t it behoove us to get cracking now on plans to get out — before it comes to that?

          As to pre-trib/post-trib/etc…, I tend to like Pastor Joe Fox’s words the best in this video I linked to in Odds ‘n Sods: Preparedness Is A Biblical Concept. This is not an exact quote, but it’s close enough: “We can agree that pre-trib/post-trib is not a matter of salvation. Therefore, if I don’t believe in a pre-trib rapture and the rapture happens, I’m outta here with the rest of His people. However, if I do believe in a pre-trib rapture and no rapture happens before TEOTWAWKI, I’m in trouble. Those who don’t prepare now have issues if they have to live through a tribulation.”

          1. Hugh, I seem to remember a particular point in a fictional work of a man you know where the entire retreat group had to fall back to a nearby forest. This was to elude a UN army surge against the property. Yet these patriots survived there as they engaged the”invaders.”
            Furthermore, another group of”refugees” wandered in the wilderness 40 years protected by God (while the parents died). Point being: remaining in a paradigm could be hazardous like the retreat in “Patriots.” Just saying! Dave T from Texas

    2. Hi Dave, thanks for the reply. The likelihood of being asked to leave is low if that elderly farmer and his wife depend on you to help keep security watch 24/7, the fact that you are the one supplying long-term food, providing the extra muscle to garden and chop wood, you are the one with the survival seed to garden with, etc… Also, I never, ever advocate anyone trying to live off the land in the woods…ever. There is always a better option. In the rare case, you may be forced to leave, you still have that list of 9 other nearby farms to approach (though it will be a lot more touchy to approach them the more time that passes after the SHTF). However, a descent portion of those farmers would likely welcome somebody into their home that has food, seed, and weapons (as they are watching their own food quickly dwindle). That being said, there are significant risks, but beggars can’t be choosers and if you don’t have a pre-planned group and BOL to head to, I still believe this a much better option than hunkering down in town waiting to get killed by the starving and desperate masses.

  4. Read One Second After, Going Home and Patriots 4 to 5 years ago. Patriots is very intimidating to the newbie Incremental scenario preparations helped me get my arms around it. Every month I rotate through one of the five areas of prep. Every month I add or refine a skill, supply or capability that extends our survival likelihood. The mini warehouse idea is a good one. I personally plan to augment that with a camper. Bought land over west but you cannot improve beyond fruit trees, open sided picnic shelter or a tank of propane as there is no security in my absence.. Find a church home in the place you intend to inhabit. Find an excuse to go family camping over that way. Make time for church.

    1. Haha. Great stuff RV. Just keep those wheels turning in your brain… I loved your point about TVP. I bet a lot of preppers bought pre-packaged long-term food kits with TVP and they don’t even know it or have never sampled it. Man, are they in for a rude awakening when they first try their Beef TVP….hahaha. then again, it’s not called survival for nothin…

      1. I would add to that – I hope those who don’t grind their own wheat now, but are stashing it for TEOTWAWKI are also stashing TP (or other means of hygiene) as well 🙂 All that fiber makes for an interesting adjustment!

  5. Great discussion and excellent points. I live just outside of DC and despite having plenty of beans and bullets, I know I’ll last maybe two weeks before all the crazies come knocking. There are just no good scenarios if you live on the east coast since you’ll have to travel hundreds of miles in order to find a place remotely safe…and good luck trying to get there! Also, relying on the humanity of others when the SHTF is going to be like trying to find a dog without fleas. I don’t care how Christian they are. It seems every option has considerations that don’t make them good options. I don’t think there is a best “worst” option. I’ve spent 20 years in the Army and another 23 years working for DoD. All I know is when things get bad, you get meaner than the person in front of you, you protect what’s yours and you keep pulling the trigger until the last brain cell dies. Not a sermon, just a thought

    1. Hi Patrick, thanks for the reply. Please don’t buy into the “I have to live 400 miles from the nearest city to survive” philosophy. There are lots of locations on the East Coast where you could tuck yourself in and be quite safe. I have multiple clients in the DC area. If you are looking for good areas to bug out to, look into eastern West Virginia and south central PA which are a 3 hour drive and 4 day hike from you. You can easily find a good BOL in those areas. Good luck to you and stay frosty my friend.

    2. I would concur with Jonathan although it obviously depends upon what disaster strikes. While the Redoubt has any good points, it could end up glowing in the dark if Obama’s reboot of the Cold War — the lethal threat to Russia posed by the Ukrainian coup — results in a Russia feeling its back is to wall. Look at the FEMA fallout map based upon ground strikes at the Minuteman missile fields in Montana and Wyoming:

      Note however that the above map is misleading in one respect — the East Coast cities show little fallout because they most likely would be destroyed by the more efficient air bursts — which have double the range for pressure but generates little fallout because the fireball doesn’t reach the ground. Also, Russia nuclear arms are about 17% of what they were in 1985 due to arms reduction talks and the US has closed 3 of the 6 Minuteman missile fields (in North Dakota,etc.)

      Nonetheless East Coast areas 40 or so miles inland from the cities would be in a ( relatively) good position — note that the Army forts are in the yellow area (low radiation) areas of the above map. Since 1960, Army construction specs have included a requirement for a fallout protection factor of 100. Note the Congressional bunker that was placed under the huge 5 star Greenbriar resort in eastern West Virginia. Or the bunkers at Mount Weather, Raven Rock , PA , Culpeper VA, Warrington VA. Front Royal, VA etc.

      1. PS One advantage of the East Coast is that access to the Atlantic Ocean and lots of anchorage areas allows Plan B evacuations based on maritime ops. Boats are the only way of transporting heavy loads of food/supplies long distances in primitive conditions. New York City evacuation looks grim if you don’t have a helicopter — FEMA’s estimate was 5 days by auto even with the extraordinary power of the government. However, some guys have set up a Plan BMarine evac by high speed center console boats — a great idea so long as the Hudson River isn’t frozen over in winter.

  6. A lot of people think they can’t afford a BOL because they refuse to budge on their vision of a perfect one. I realized it would be 20+ years if I did it myself so I went in with 2 other couples I know and trust. “But what if one of those couples does something I don’t like!” the perfectionists will cry.
    I found a place I could afford 70 miles from the major city I live in and at least that from any other major city and 13 miles from the nearest town of any size. “But that’s not far enough!” the perfectionist cries. We paid about 35% of the cost in cash but borrowed the rest at a low interest rate to get it all done and built. The monthly payments when split 3 ways is closer to a car payment we can all easily afford since none of us have car payments. “But now you are a debt slave!” the perfectionists chime in.
    Well when I am sitting on the deck of our beautiful cabin drinking a beer and overlooking our year round creek running through our 50 acres relaxing at the thought of having a BOL stocked full of supplies I would like to ask those perfectionists if they are happy having NOTHING because in their mind anything else is stupid.

  7. Finding a farm to retreat to is a sound idea. Approaching a farmer about it is problematic. He’ll spend the entire time wondering what you really want. That is something that will take some time to get around to.
    I would suggest the best option for finding a farm to retreat to would be to ask about hunting on the farmers land. It doesn’t have to be with a gun. You could ask to hunt mushrooms or take pictures of wild flowers. If a farmer denies you permission then move on. You’d not get very far with that person anyway.
    Once a dialog is opened then ask later if he or another farmer has land they might want to sell or rent for your prep storage.
    Finally talk about using the place as a retreat come SHFT. That may take 6 months but you’re far more likely to succeed.

    1. There are a few of us farmers out here, very few, who are looking for people to join us. Of course, there has to be a vetting process. I know of few farmers like me who actually have a fully working farm that could go off grid if needed. It is not easy or fast to get a farm working, with the infrastructure in place that would be needed to survive. The cost of getting it there is prohibitive. Honestly, I know of even fewer preppers that I would accept into our group. Most would not have compatible skill sets, morals, or stamina to be able to join us. We almost need a website, similar to a find-a-spouse website, to connect with people.

      1. Rose – I’m considering building such a “MAG matchmaking” type website myself, and plan to build one in the next 12-18 months. Keep an eye out!

  8. Would it be fair to add, that there seems to be Only two approaches to teotwawki? [Is there, a third? Besides, hide under, ‘blankey’ or swallow, ‘The Blue Pill’?] To use an imperfect metaphor: if there’s a blitz on the quarterback, one side will do maybe ok, however; if, ‘the others’ cover the backfield – the, ‘other side’ will make out better.

    Is that about right?

    i guess we’re all fubar if they blitz – And – cover the backfield. Just ask the Ukrainians from Stalin’s era. Oh wait, you can’t. For the most part.
    But, as others have mentioned, hopefully; ‘they’ don’t have the manpower or drone-power to do both. [Note: if electrical power goes out, drones can’t fly. Right?]

    i suppose, that’s the beauty of free-will, no matter what, ‘the others’ decide to do against free people,… some of us will make it. For a time, anyway. I hope.

    i wonder if any writers will present to us how things could blend together/
    I.e. how can the lone-wolf’s of the world who love liberty, help the groups which survive, without owing a lot of money in the middle of nowhere, that sort of thing. After reading this, it seems that the lone wolf’s may be doomed, we ain’t got 50 acres in the country and a porch with a cup of coffee ’cause, for instance, we read pages such as and thought that buying/going into serfdom for a scratch of property was a financial mistake, or, we simply don’t have the m-o-n-e-y. And, our help won’t be accepted.
    I do hope that those who signed up to be debt-donkeys, end up ok, but, from this View from The Porch, it seems like they are crazy.

    Anyway, thanks for mentioning the comments here, I wouldn’t have returned to this this thread without that mention.

    Hi, Don. You did a good job of describing sheet from a GTA perspective.

    Your friend, Clark.

    Also, I wonder how Geoengineering will throw a money wrench into the plans of everyone. …What? You haven’t seen the official patients for the equipment which are used to in the geoengineering processes? If so, you’ve got a lotta catching up to do.

  9. Here is something to consider. The theme of all grid down means every nuclear power plant will have a melt down when all the cooling water boils off. And all cooling pools with spent rods will melt down too for the same reason.
    Than we will have a constant radiation contamination spewed right into the air. That will last for 10,000 years.

    It will get to the jet stream and be global in short order.
    The idea people can exist in a highly toxic environment of this scope is not realistic.

    Just look how many power plants the US has right now. Than match it up with the trade winds. Now add Europes nuclear power plants to the mix. Just some reality if all power stops for 3 months.

    1. Sorry for the late reply — I was out of town for several days. From what I have seen, the nuclear plants response to a “station black out” — loss of power from the electrical grid needed to run to coolant pumps — is:
      a) Use backup diesel generators to run the pumps until the core cools
      b) worse case, have local fire department sent trucks to pump water into the reactor and also into the “swimming pools” that hold the spent (but highly radionactive ) power rods to keep the water in the pools from being boiled off and exposing the spent rods to the air.

  10. PS
    1) Jonathan has some good points above re the difficulty of feeding 2000 people — the problem being that 20 people can stockpile a year’s supply of food whereas the 2000 town citizens may NOT have made preparations.
    2) Under COG plans The government may draft all working age males into the military so that they can be forced to work under military discipline –similar to the way civiliian doctors and nurses are drafted now in times of war. In that regard — and in regard to commandeered housing and food supplie, Jonathan’s hidden retreat might fare better than a visible town.
    3) If anyone is interested in the lessons of archaeology re how humans survived in the past under primitive conditions, an excellent text book on world prehistory is Chris Scarre’s “The Human Past”. Brian Fagan’s “People of the Earth ” (14th edition) is another source.

  11. My premise was about an EMP event by the sun or nuclear weapons.
    If that happens, trucks will not be running and neither will generators.
    The nuclear power plants water supply will boil off. And with zero power nothing is going to stop it.

  12. I am so enjoying this discussion, challenging me to think hard thoughts. While I work hard to be prepared for the worst, you know, cover all my bases, I wonder sometimes where to put my efforts. Having read the book I reference below, I question your basic premises, folks. The research you point to, Jonathan, about human actions under stress is compelling. However, having my degree in psychology, I know the limits of extrapolating research to the real world. Can you tell I’m educated by my big words? Much of the rest of what you posit about urban survival is based on speculation. The book I reference below, with an excerpt from a review is a recounting of how people actually behaved in the face of TEOTWAWKI. You may write off the author as a leftie Pollyanna, as I did for a while. I invite you to simply read some of the account of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, since that is most applicable to our time.

    In A Paradise Built in Hell Solnit mounts a spirited argument that this pessimistic view of how people respond to catastrophe is fundamentally wrong. Instead, she argues, disasters are far more likely to bring out the best in people — there is a natural desire to help one another, which is actually easier to put into action, given the relaxation of social barriers that often prevails in the
    wake of a disaster. You might go for years just nodding at that neighbor across the street, but after the earthquake/fire/blackout the two of you may just end up having a real conversation.

    Solnit grounds her argument in five specific case studies:

    * the San Francisco earthquake of 1906
    * the 1917 explosion of the munitions ship Mont Blanc in Halifax, Nova Scotia
    * Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake
    * the World Trade Center attacks of 2001
    * Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

    There were instances where a bad situation was made worse when those in power, through fear or panic, resorted to extreme and unwarranted measures (General Funston’s imposition of de facto martial law following the SF quake, where soldiers were given license to shoot to kill anyone who did not cooperate satisfactorily; FEMA’s and law enforcement’s response after Katrina, where citizens were treated as likely criminals rather than people who needed to be helped). The fear-mongering narrative of barely contained pandemonium often finds traction with the media, but is rarely accurate. By detailed examination of the five case studies, Solnit makes an extremely convincing argument that the “natural” response to disaster is increased cooperation, a sense of solidarity and future possibility, indeed a degree of exhilaration among most survivors.

    All five examples are interesting, but her discussion of the WTC attacks and Hurricane Katrina stand out as exceptionally measured, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

    1. Hello Marine… Thanks for commenting. I agree wholeheartedly with your premise above based on “those five scenarios”. Unfortunately, those are NOT examples of TEOTWAWKI. Those are instances of short term natural disasters where immediate relief was sent from other areas of the country. Yes, when natural disasters occur, Americans rally around the affected areas and we all work together to fix the problem. Your comment is a perfect example of the wrong mentality a lot of preppers have about the psychological effects post SHTF, in my humble opinion. In none of those circumstances were people forced to go without food for more than a few days to a week at most. In every case there, help came to assist those effected in very short order. Again, if you’re idea of prepping includes natural disaster preparedness or short term financial collapse situations where the majority of food and electrical infrastructure stays functioning, then yes… in those situations, people will work together for the common good.
      In the case of a long-term grid-down scenario, which is what my article addresses… things are going to be drastically worse than I can even attempt to describe. Contrary to any other SHTF scenario in our history, a long-term grid down scenario will result in a nearly complete shut-down of our food infrastructure. In all those previous SHTF scenarios, other Americans (FEMA) quickly brought food and water to the effected areas. In a grid down scenario effecting the entire nation, there is no one coming to help. Maybe the UN will send us some food to the coasts for a while, but it will be nowhere near enough to feed 350 million Americans and there will be no mass transportation to transport that food around the country. None of those scenarios that the author mentioned involved mass starvation on a biblical plague scale. The psychological response to starvation and the willingness to work together will completely disappear when people have gone two weeks without any food. What about two months in?
      Human psychology dealing with people who are fed is drastically different than studying human psychology of a group of dependent class people are suddenly put into situations where they are totally starving and desperate for an extended period of time(not two or three days) in a situation with no rule of law. There is little to no way to even study that. The last time that was even done was the Stanford experiment in the 70’s and look how that turned out.
      You mentioned Hurricane Katrina as an example. I believe that is a better example for my side of the argument then yours. You discuss how people from all over the country worked together to help those affected. Everyone of those rescuers that came and “worked together” to help after Katrina had a full belly of food when they made the decision to leave the comfort of their couch in Missouri and go help. None of the out-of-towners were starving, desperate, angry, or hungry when they came to give aid. On the flipside, instead of focusing on the well-fed rescuers’ mentality, take a look at the survivors sent to the Super Dome after Hurricane Katrina. FEMA was very slow to respond to that catastrophe and those people spent three full days before buses with food and water arrived. Within three days, sanitation was overflowing and the survivors were going totally crazy. Go back and look at the pictures and watch the video clips from the Super Dome. They were stealing scraps of food and half empty bottles of water from each other. There were fights, hundreds of reports of rapes, dozens of murders, and people stepping over dead bodies with their eyes glazed over in shock. This is how the people reacted EVEN THOUGH there were news cameras down there and FEMA reps telling the people that help was on the way!!! Some will say that this happened because they were predominately black or because they were poor… BS! You pack thousands of hungry desperate white people from Beverly Hills into the same environment and living conditions and the results would be the exact same!
      Unlike Katrina, what happens when there is no TV, internet, or radio functioning to tell people what is happening? What happens when there are no camera crews telling people to stay calm, help is on the way? What happens in two weeks when the people start to realize that no help is coming at all? What happens when those people’s elderly parents and sick children start to die of starvation, right in front of their very eyes? You can’t compare the mentality of rescuers after a natural disaster and use it as an example of how people will react to a long-term SHTF scenario. Because the truth of the matter is, in the aftermath of a grid-down scenario… There aren’t going to be any rescuers! Nearly everyone will be starving, desperate, and completely pissed off at the situation. Anyone who has food (politicians in some bunker, and most preppers) will be hunkered down, hiding their food and just trying to survive on what they have. Yes, there may be a few instances of someone giving away their food to the needy, but that will be very rare.
      My main point is that there is a VERY big difference between surviving a short term scenario where there is help on the way and more well-fed people willing to help than those in need, and a situation where the majority are desperate and there is no rule of law. In a grid down scenario, after a month, you’ll have 95% of the population starving and there is no way the 5% can help the others without our electrical infrastructure to help them and mass transportation completely shut-down.
      In my opinion, it is almost impossible to compare historical instances of SHTF to today. For one, the overwhelming American society has grown very soft, with an entitlement mentality and a complete reliance on electricity for survival. I know people are going to respond with other instances of historical times were there were famines that societies worked together to survive, etc. It is a different animal. For thousands of years, every society in the world was filled with a general population of hard workers where most knew at least the basics of survival. Even 100 years ago, people knew how to hunt, fish, garden, build a fire, boil water, store food, on and on. All those skills have slowly disappeared from society since electricity was invented. We have grown soft. Life without electricity will be next to impossible for 90% of the country.
      A long-term grid down collapse in today’s society will be an “end of country” event. Sure… people may work together for a few days, but a month in? six months in? no way! I may not be a psychologist, but I’ve done lots of research on this. Preppers need to get out of their “Americans always work together” mentality and really wrap your head around the utter hopelessness, starvation, and desperation that will follow a grid down scenario. I believe the survivors will eventually come together and work together, but not till after 90% of the population has died off… my two cents.

  13. In a total grid down event what geographical location will be free of the 500 Chernobyls spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere?
    And without functioning electronics how will one detect it?
    The only ones I see surviving a total grid down are militaries of the world, especially the sub forces of the navy. They will have power, logistics of food, plus serious weapon systems.
    Lastly except for Noah and his family surviving the global flood, mankind has not seen a 90% die off

    1. 1) While I agree that an EMP attack would cause severe damage to the US economy, I think there are also countermeasures and manual procedures to reconstitute critical infrastructure to operate partially.
      2) I suggest people check out the report of the EMP Commission which had experts evaluate the effects and possible responses:

      3) Page 115 and 116 of the report notes that high intensity EMP tests on cars and trucks show little damage to either even at 50 kV/meter.

      4) The nuke reactors have large backup diesel generators. I would think those generators would still work, esp if inside metal sided buildings. Same goes for the backup firetrucks that pump water into spent fuel rod swimming pools and reactors.

      5) Finally, the military and police use the Canberra AN/UDR-14 radiation monitor which is NOT affected by EMP:

      6) The EMP Commission Report does not that new locomotives may be vulnerable to EMP whereas the older models (20%) are not. Given the importance of those locomotives in transporting food, it is inexcusable that the US government has not mandated EMP protection for the locomotives.

      1. Hey Don, thanks again for the comment… Just so everyone knows, I have made it my mission over the last ten years to research every single aspect of the threats to our electric grid via EMP, Solar Flare, Cyber, and physical attack. Besides dozens of DOD, government, and security analists reports on the EMP threats, I have also been able to speak with experts involved in protecting our country from this threat, including off the record conversation with an individual responsible for protecting one of our nuclear facilities. In the prepper community, there is more inaccurate information regarding the EMP threat than there is accurate info. I will take your points one at a time.
        1) Even the EMP commission disagrees with your point here. Are there a handful of locations were power could be restored in a few months… possibly but likely not. Current world wide EHV (Extreme High Voltage) transformers are constructed in only two countries… South Korea and Germany. They currently only have the ability to produce 180 EHV transformers per year and each one must be specifically designed for each location and lead time is 12-18 months to send a replacement. That does not include the time it takes to transport it to its final location in the US which often takes a month or more (These are 400 ton behemoths we are talking about…). In the event of an EMP, the Commission says that a vast majority, if not all of the EHV transformers could be destroyed. Could we find a spare or convince South Korea/Germany to send us a few they had built to send to someone else? Maybe. Even if that is the case it will be months before things even start getting fixed. After only a month without electricity and the food infrastructure operating, people will be starving and social order will have completely fallen apart by then. That is why the commission estimates 90% of Americans will be dead within a year. In the case of a Cyber attack, you are correct. There are countermeasures and procedures in place to reboot the system. But only if the hackers haven’t destroyed the EHV transformers (google the Aurora test on EHV transformer SCADA).
        2) Yes, the EMP commission report is “must read” literature for every prepper. You need to keep one thing in mind though when reading it, it is 13 years old and the testing was done over 15 years ago… Most importantly, that report was written to address a 50Kvm EMP from a traditional nuclear weapon being used. Since 2004 and 2008 when these reports came out, we now know that China and Russia have specifically designed “Super EMP” weapons capable of 200Kvm EMP pulse. A Russian Ambassador even bragged to one of our congressmen on the intelligence committee that their “Super EMP” weapon would destroy everything, even our most hardened and protected military infrastructure (this is in the mid 2000’s when we only tested to 50Kvm and not 200Kvm). It is also reported that North Korea and Iran have this technology now as well. 200Kvm is four times the highest testing done for the commission report. I’ll get into this more in a following point.
        3) First, you must realize that the vehicles tested ranged from 1986 – 2002 but there is no breakdown to percentages from what year. We already knew that older (pre 90’s cars) would likely have some EMP rigidity to them. Second, most of those cars DID have adverse effects, but not serious enough to stop them. I actually researched the company that did the testing and found the report they did “for” the EMP commission. In the very first paragraph of that report, they told the EMP commission that 50 Kvm was their best “guess” on the strength of an EMP from a conventional nuclear weapon, but ALSO stated that it could very well be much higher and that the same vehicles could have more damage to them. Third, the inclusion of tiny microprocessors in today’s vehicles has skyrocketed since the 90’s. Most vehicles today have many, many more driving features controlled by microchips, than the cars of the 90’s. Due to CAFÉ standards by the EPA, most cars are also using less/thinner metal and more plastic in vehicle construction to make them lighter to achieve MPG standards. This offers them less protection and more vulnerability to EMP. Fourth, you are correct. These older vehicles were only tested to 50Kvm. You can download the Military EMP testing requirements by googling “MIL -STD-188-125-1”. This is where a lot of the confusion regarding the effects of an EMP comes into play. Everyone references these Military Standard testing requirements (up to 50Kvm) when selling “EMP-proof” anything including those Mylar baggies preppers buy to protect their electronics, so-called EMP-proof solar panels, etc… What they are not telling you is that any country capable of hitting us with a traditional nuke, now has the ability to hit us with a “Super-EMP” nuke. That is why any Joe blow can download the old, previously classified, Military standards for EMP hardening (MIL-STD-188-125-1)…. Since the newer “Super-EMP” technology has become available and proven, all the military’s critical infrastructure must now meet a much higher standard of EMP protection. What that standard happens to be is a mystery as it’s a Top Secret document. But this is why you have been hearing news reports lately about the military spending hundreds of millions of dollars to reopen, repurpose, and upgrade Cheyenne Mountain along with other facilities. Unfortunately, everyone still uses that old (50Kvm) metric to sell their “EMP-proof” stuff, but you are rolling the dice on whether or not it will actually work (there are so many other variables involved like where the EMP baggie is stored… out on your picnic table in full view of the sky, in your basement, or 10 feet underground in your sealed concrete bunker?). On a side note, I met in person and discussed the “200Kvm potential” with the president of a one of the bigger EMP-proof baggy manufacturers and he was well aware of the Super-EMP threat and was upfront and honest with me that their products would not be effective against anything over 50Kvm. He told me that he was actually surprised that more people didn’t ask him about that. The point here is that preppers need to understand that technology on the EMP front is moving at lightspeed. What might have protected your gear 15 years ago, likely won’t protect it today… You need to be very wary of anyone using the term “EMP-Proof” or “EMP protected to Military Standards” these days. If you want true EMP protection up to 200Kvm, you will need to get it from a company like Holland Shielding. A chest-freezer-sized enclosure to meet that requirement costs around $10,000 (I know because I have coordinated the purchase of these for some of my clients) Please, please, please don’t follow the advice of all the “Here’s how you build a Faraday Cage out of a garbage can” prepper experts(idiots) on Youtube and expect your stuff to function. Doing that stuff DOES add SOME protection to your electronics, but it all depends on the sensitivity of the electronics you are trying to protect. If you can’t afford a commercial grade EMP faraday cage, than by all means, build the “do it at home” philosophy as I do… Just don’t bank your livelihood or survival on that stuff functioning…..
        4) You are absolutely correct. I have covered this exact topic with an un-named high level person at a nuclear facility. To begin with, this was an off the record conversation, which was preceded with me letting him know that I was not seeking any classified information on the topic and I didn’t want him sharing any information with me that he wasn’t supposed to. He assured me that he wouldn’t even if I asked…lol. The diesel backup generators and water cooling equipment ARE completely mechanical and fully protected against a “Super-EMP” (he was very aware of that newer threat). I was told that they have two weeks of diesel on hand to run the facility in the case of an EMP or Solar Flare damaging the facility. He said the have a contract with a “civilian” company to resupply them every two weeks. I told him I felt that could be an issue. After an EMP, a lot of tucks may not function. Assuming they had EMP hardened tanker trucks, the gas stations between the refineries in TX and the nuclear facility would not be functioning. Assuming the tanker trucks themselves were diesel and they could rig up a way to refuel from their own tanks, there would still be massive traffic jams throughout the country to contend with. Add on top of that, that this is a civilian company and those truck drivers may decide to start staying home to protect their loved ones from looters and not be willing to risk their lives driving across the country on the ever more dangerous open road the longer the grid stays down. A couple months in, those tanker trucks are going to be a huge target for ambush by desperate and starving people wanting to steal that very important commodity (diesel) and trade it for food. What happens when one or more of those shipments doesn’t arrive? I then asked him how much fuel reserves the military had and in this situation, how long before the military ran out? And even if they could negotiate delivery from the UN or a foreign government, what happens when one of those deliveries is late, ambushed, or never shows up? I brought up a few more points and he acknowledged that there were a few things he hadn’t considered, but assured me that he would investigate those points and make sure they were covered in the future. He did note that in a collapse scenario, the military would likely be used to provide protection to his fuel deliveries. I then asked the hypothetical… what if you don’t get one of your deliveries? How bad of a fallout are we talking about. He assured me that the US facilities were built much better than most of those in foreign countries. He said that in the case of a “controlled” melt down, the effects would only be severe for those within 2 miles of the facility and “some minor” fallout within 20 miles downwind. Whether you choose to believe that information is up to you. For me, I recommend my clients stay at least 50 miles away from any nuclear facility. Either way, there is plenty of US countryside to bug out to away from nuclear facilities and the idea that I’ve heard around the internet that the whole country will be radioactive is not accurate.
        5) Thank you for the link. I recommend everyone get a radiation monitor for their retreat. They aren’t that expensive…
        6) Again, the EMP commission report is 13 years old now and train technology has changed a lot since then (see point 3). Even if that was the case, how is the fuel supplied to these operable trains? There is no interstate trucking with the gas stations empty of fuel. Many train tracks will likely be blocked in the cities by vehicles in traffic jams, etc.. Also, more and more of the trains operation schedules are driven by computer which will present a problem. Yes, every train intersection can be switched over manually, but that’s assuming that train operators will still be coming in to work for an extended period of time, which I don’t believe to be the case. I do believe that “some” trains will be operable and the government will use them for critical supply runs for government installations (for a time at least), but it’s not going to be widespread and there are likely many more issues that could arise from blocked railroad tracks, people derailing and ambushing the train deliveries (kind like the wild west…).
        So, with those points covered, it’s important that preppers understand that a lot of the EMP information and recommendations out there are based on old outdated data. If we are hit by an EMP, it is going to be 100 times worse than you think it will be…

  14. Yes, that is correct. I should have clarified my statements… That is why I said there weren’t going to be any big explosions or “nuclear meltdowns” like some people suggest. It’s not “shutting down” the facility that is a problem, it’s keeping the nuclear fuel rods cool over an extended period of time post-SHTF. Even with the plant shut down, those fuel rods present a problem. You just can’t turn the key on the facility and walk away. There will need to be a permanent team there to keep the generators and water pumps running to keep the rods cool. The question remains, are those employees forced at gunpoint to stay at the facility? What happens a month or two in when things have totally fallen apart, the big cities have burned down, and the majority of Americans are starving to death? Do those employees aren’t going to escape to go home to see to their families? That is another obstacle I didn’t mention in the previous comment that was discussed. At the end of the day, there are lots of obstacles to keeping those generators and water pumps running long term in a world gone to craziness. If those systems don’t stay operational or generator fuel re-supply doesn’t show up, then YES, there will be “some” radiation leakage. Not an Chernobyl style meltdown or massive contamination, but there will be some. that is why I was told to stay 2-5 miles away and not be within 20 miles downwind. Thanks Don for bringing that up so I could clarify…

    1. Thanks for the info, Jonathan. I have seen the rumors of “superEMP” — noted by Dr Pry in his testimony in 2005 — but no hard data in the unclassified forums.

      I would note that peak intensity occurs in a much smaller area than the total area of EMP influence. For example, note the small (red) area receiving 50kV/m in this diagram:

      So I would hope that while some areas would be severely damaged, others might only be partially damaged and able to be partially reconstituted.
      Of course, power lines run long distances and voltage generated by an intense EMP field in one location could be carried long distances — the electric grid is one big antenna farm in that respect. question is, have advanced circuit breakers been installed in enough key locations to allow to the overall grid to break apart into independent regional grids?

      Your point about the large transformers is valid, of course. But protecting key nodes in fixed locations is easier than protecting the grid as a whole. I realize EMP E1 pulse has a very fast rise time ( 5 nano secs) but how long does it take for the much slower E3 pulse (tens of seconds) to generate high voltage high amperage currents and for those currents to flow in power lines over long distances? (I don’t have the answer)

      An analogy I would note is the gamma ray detectors installed at some bunkers during the Cold War. The receipt of gamma rays would be almost instantly for a nuclear explosion 20 miles away (speed of light) whereas the blast wave would not arrive for almost 90 seconds (speed of sound). Hence, the vault door was rigged to automatically start closing when triggered by the gamma ray detector.

  15. PS I don’t have a PhD in high energy physics so I am not rejecting your concerns — just swapping info and ideas. My haunting fear is that I am making the dubious assumption that the US Congress can pour urine out of a boot if someone writes the instructions on the heel.

    That is the Congress which spent $4+ Trillion on “defense” in the decade prior to the Sept 11, 2001 attack — and yet let Bin Laden pull off that attack with $150,000 and some goat herds from the far side of the world.

    AFTER Bin Laden had declared war on us in 1997-98 (interviews with US TV networks), attacked the World Trade Center once, blew a huge hole in the USS Cole and blew up two US embassies in Africa.

    Who can forget Senator Richard Shelby — Chairman of the Senate SELECT Committee on Intelligence — telling the Washingto Post in JUNE 2001 that we “have
    Bin Laden on the run”.

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